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2018 IMSA Silly Season Update: Prototype

Sportscar365 explores the confirmed, likely and possible Prototype entries for next year’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship…

Photo: Rick Dole/IMSA

In our first Silly Season update, Sportscar365 looks at the confirmed and likely Prototype entries for the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, including some entries for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Wayne Taylor Racing (Cadillac DPi) – After dominating the 2017 season, the Indianapolis-based team will return to defend its Prototype title with a revised driver lineup of Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. The Dutchman replaces Ricky Taylor, who has signed for Acura Team Penske. IndyCar ace Ryan Hunter-Reay is expected to complete the team’s lineup for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup races. (1 car confirmed)

Action Express Racing (Cadillac DPi) – Action Express will also feature a revised lineup, with Felipe Nasr replacing the Penske-bound Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Whelen-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R alongside Eric Curran, and Filipe Albuquerque stepping up to a full-season seat in the No. 5 car with Joao Barbosa. Christian Fittipaldi scales back to an endurance-only driver in the No. 5, with Mike Conway back in the No. 31 and Sunoco Whelen Challenge winner Stuart Middleton completing the lineup for Daytona. (2 cars confirmed)

Spirit of Daytona (Cadillac DPi) – The Troy Flis-led squad is poised to return to GM machinery after a year campaigning Gibson-engined LMP2 cars. It’s understood plans are being put into place for the team, currently known as Visit Florida Racing, to run a Cadillac DPi, with a likely all-new driver lineup. Van der Zande has already departed for WTR, with Marc Goossens reportedly on the chopping block. It’s believed Visit Florida, meanwhile, is unlikely to return, at least in a title sponsor capacity, with the team exploring new sponsors. (1 car likely)

Tequila Patron ESM (Nissan DPi) – Scott Sharp’s ESM operation will see an unchanged full-season driver lineup in Sharp and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi, and Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 22 car. Nico Lapierre and Olivier Pla have been announced as the team’s endurance drivers, although specific car allocations have not yet been made. (2 cars confirmed)

Acura Team Penske (Acura DPi) – Making its full-season WeatherTech Championship debut, Penske’s pair of Acura ARX-05 DPis will feature a star-studded lineup of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron, Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, with Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal completing the lineup for the enduros. (2 cars confirmed)

Mazda Team Joest (Mazda DPi) –  A pair of heavily revised Mazda RT24-Ps will be on the grid next year with the Japanese manufacturer’s new partnership with the legendary German outfit. While driver lineups are due to be announced at the LA Auto Show next month, look for Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito to return for a full season, likely joined by Joel Miller and Oliver Jarvis. Spencer Pigot and Audi DTM ace Rene Rast, meanwhile, have been tipped for endurance seats. (2 cars confirmed)

JDC-Miller Motorsports (Oreca LMP2) – The John Church-led team expands into a two-car operation next year, while retaining an identical lineup of Stephen Simpson, Mikhail Goikhberg and Chris Miller (enduros) in the No. 85 Oreca 07 Gibson, affectionally nicknamed the “Banana Boat.” Drivers for its second entry have yet to be finalized although it recently tested a number of drivers, including Colin Thompson. (2 cars confirmed)

CORE autosport (Oreca LMP2) – The most successful team in Prototype Challenge history steps up, with Colin Braun and Jon Bennett at the wheel of an Oreca. Additional drivers for the endurance races, including the Rolex 24, have yet to be announced, but the Morgan Brady-led team is expected to stack the deck with two top pros alongside Braun and Bennett. (1 car confirmed)

D3+ Transformers Racing (Ligier LMP2) – Father-and-son Ian and Simon Dawson will campaign a Ligier JS P217 Gibson, carrying backing from the popular Hasbro franchise. Robbie Kerr is the only confirmed driver so far, although Dawson told Sportscar365 he expects to have an all-pro lineup. (1 car confirmed)

PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports (Ligier LMP2) – After a challenging debut season in Prototype, the Bobby Oergel-led squad is targeting a full-season return with its Ligier, although as of last month, pieces were still being put together. Look for the team to contest the Patron Endurance Cup races at a minimum, with at least one driver change, as Pla moves to ESM. (1 car likely)

BAR1 Motorsports (Riley LMP2) – The Brian Alder-led team makes the move to Prototype, having acquired Ben Keating’s Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, which will be upgraded to Evo specification and to benefit from Multimatic’s chassis development work. Drivers have yet to be announced, although is likely to feature a mix of its PC pilots, including Tomy Drissi. A second car is also possible for the Patron Endurance Cup races. (1 car confirmed, 2nd car possible)

Performance Tech Motorsports (Dallara LMP2) – The final PC champions will step up to the top class next year, with the Brent O’Neill-led team finalizing the purchase of a Dallara P217 Gibson. Look for a similar lineup from this year’s effort, led by James French, Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson. (1 car likely)

Additional Entries Possible for Season

While dependent on sponsorship and funded drivers, CRP Racing could move to IMSA, having signaled the possibility of purchasing a LMP2 car, while at least one other team is understood to be evaluating a potential full-season effort.

European Invasion Expected for Daytona

An influx of entries from Europe are expected for the Rolex 24, led by the two-car United Autosports Ligier effort and featuring Fernando Alonso, Paul Di Resta and Lando Norris. Jackie Chan DC Racing will also field two cars, with Rebellion Racing and Graff Racing two other Oreca squads that are likely to take part.

While having evaluated potential Daytona efforts, both Racing Team Nederland and G-Drive Racing will not make the trip to Florida, with Tockwith Motorsports’ previously confirmed effort no longer valid due to Phil Hanson’s move to United Autosports. 

Full-Season Entry Projection: 16-18 cars
Additional Cars for Daytona: 6-8 

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Curtis

    November 13, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Awesome class of teams and drivers. I’m really looking forward to the Penske Acuras and the Joest Mazdas. Hopefully, Team Joest will turn around their performance and make Mazda a contender.

  2. TailsLeMans722

    November 13, 2017 at 10:56 am

    John, Your Silly Season updates are always a personal highlight of my winter (and I do mean winter, its freezing cold as I type this!). Keep up the good work.

    • Curtis

      November 13, 2017 at 1:20 pm

      I second that!

    • dougjp

      November 13, 2017 at 6:48 pm

      I third that. Especially anything where notable change is expected.

      Close to when racing starts I’d like to see a review of the new (for here) TCR class – who’s doing it and especially what cars are involved.

  3. jason

    November 13, 2017 at 11:06 am

    I wonder if IMSA will need to make schedule adjustments and announce it at the Daytona test. They should know the full season entries by then. If there are 18 protos, 9 GTLM, and 18 GTD’s (I bet they will be high too). That will be an oversubscribed count of 45 full season runners. CTMP, Laguna Seca, and perhaps Mid Ohio can’t handle that all at once. GTD costs are an issue. I think they should remove GTD from Laguna entirely. And have them run their own stand alone 1 hour and 40 minute race at CTMP and Mid Ohio.

    • Mike D.

      November 13, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      Laguna can support 46 before needing to single-box 2 car teams.

    • Jeff Wagner

      November 13, 2017 at 4:53 pm

      Jason: GTD having a separate race at Mosport would be the ULTIMATE! They do NOTHING but get in the way ALL race when their “money guys” (a BIG difference from a Gentleman Driver) are in the car. Mosport is such a fast flowing track it is DISGUSTING to watch 3-6 fast LMP2 or GTLM cars having to follow some CLOWN all the way from the top of Turn 2 and sometimes not
      all getting past until the EXIT of Turn 3 because even worse he’s running the middle line! (He’s ONLY comfortable Racing at COTA you know) It’s STILL the BIGGEST difference in the Races now compared to the days of the ALMS. There were a couple of guys then but GTD is REALLY bad for it!

    • dougjp

      November 13, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      That would be awesome. There’s plenty of time to schedule a separate race. At Mosport very little goes on during Sunday, and Sunday ends early too. GTD could precede GTLM/Protos on Sunday with the support race moved to Saturday.

      • Tyler Roberts

        November 13, 2017 at 10:51 pm

        There will be another wreck at Mosport park in 2018 just like the one that happened this year. There were 4 classes all trying to turn at once, it seemed. The GTD only race would be very special and it should be done at Mosport park just for safety’s sake.

        • Matt

          November 14, 2017 at 12:59 am

          No! Just no! The gtds are out at the same time to provide excitement! Without them they will be as exciting as pwc races!

        • Jeff Wagner

          November 14, 2017 at 2:26 am

          I think you’re a fan that goes way back with my Dad (every Pro event since ’64) calling it Mosport Park not just Mosport! It’s GREAT to hear!!!

  4. jason

    November 13, 2017 at 11:08 am

    I look forward to the GTLM report too to see if there is anything on extra Fords for Daytona/Sebring. Or if AF Corse and/or Aston Martin can make it.

    Also wonder if the GTD report might have to wait still. Things there don’t come together until much later than the all pro classes it seems. But I expect GTD grid numbers both for the Florida endures and the full season to be as large as IMSA allows it to be.

    • tracer

      November 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm

      Unfortunately Aston won’t be racing their GTE stateside before Sebring 2019. Haven’t heard anything regarding AF Corse racing here either… Ferrari’s complete lack of interest in supporting GTLM entries continues to be a head scratcher.

  5. Prototype 1

    November 13, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Excellent work, John. Can’t wait to see how GTLM and GTD is going to turn out.

    Keep up the good work.

  6. Jacob J

    November 13, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    So Tom Long is out at Mazda? Finally cannot politic his way in any more nor can his daddy. It would see given the Longs have been in Mazda’s pocket forever including the Global MX5 builds that Joest really is in charge of that team.

  7. vanillachinchilla

    November 13, 2017 at 6:40 pm

    16-18!? wow, somehow I don’t think it will be quite that high, I think at least a couple of those “likely” entrees will end up being late no shows, but still excited for this

  8. Steven

    November 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm

    Should be a good field. ESM look to have a very stellar lineup for the endurance races.

    Odds of a LMP2 car winning will be slim and none (outside of Daytona for United Autosport and Rebellion). IMSA really should have separated the classes already to make the effort for DPi to be rebranded as LMP1.

    • Davy

      November 13, 2017 at 9:11 pm

      No, just no. One prototype class is much better than pointlessly fracturing it like the Europeans. If the LMP2 outfits can’t compete for wins it’d be because their driver lineups are not good enough.

    • Jasom

      November 13, 2017 at 9:13 pm

      No. Three classses is fine. We finally got a good three class structure for 2018. I hop3 the class colors for gtlm and GTD become green and orange more.

  9. John Cray

    November 14, 2017 at 4:47 am

    It’s looking like a stellar years for Prototypes and GTLM in IMSA. Thanks for a great silly season update John Dagys. Perhaps it’s time for us to leave the cold, miserable weather of N E England and take a couple of weeks in the Daytona spring sunshine for the first time in many years.

  10. Zone

    November 15, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Daytona in late January has been almost rain free during the past 5 years. Hope I didn’t jinx it now. Great racing and practice makes for a fun 4 days. Race day Infield seems to be getting more and more crowded each year. Too many car passes imo.

    • Curtis

      November 15, 2017 at 1:58 pm

      I don’t know about your weather recap. We got pretty damp last season..🤣

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